Preschool Free For All

Illinois_logo2An anonymous preschool teacher writes in about some problems facing the Gov's fancy new Preschool For All initiative, including a new intake system that might deny participation to the most needy kids, concerns about ELL kids bumping out at-risk English speakers, and the lack of any real income or special needs screening/ verification.

Take a look, and feel free to add your two cents (or, ideally, some specific information).

Here's the email:

With the new "Preschool For All" rollout to begin this week, with pre-
registration, since there is no longer a long screening process for
State Pre-K (now Preschool For All) many of us (in the program) have
a feeling that we are going to lose the "serving of the most at-
risk." They want class lists by June. Most of the families with the
most risk are those who come in and think their kids are going to be
in K and then realize they are too young in September. By this time
many of the spots will be filled (by those who are less at-risk) and
these kids are going to be left further behind.

Though I will try to keep you posted as the Pre-K drama begins to
unfold. The South Side meeting the other day was pretty messy. Lots
of teachers not wanting to change because some just don't. Others
worried that the most at-risk will no longer be served. Many worried
that the speakers of other languages are going to take precedence
over many needy English only speaking children because that is one of
the big risk factors these days. Not saying that it isn't, but in
some communities English speakers are probably more at risk than
speakers of other languages.

The State Pre-K screening was quite lengthy before. Involving a
prescreening of the child, parent, with a through health history of
both (mom's prenatal). Now all the families need to do is answer four
main questions. Age of child, Languages spoken, DCFS involvement,
income. (Without proof. In Head Start one must show a pay stub or
something--here it is just checking a box--and we all know many
families know how to manipulate those lunch forms!) Priority is still
being given to four year olds with the most risks, however see above
with the classlist by June. Teachers are also worried that a lot more
children with high special needs are going to be entered into these
programs without support services because of the lack of the child
screening process. Once students enter, at some schools, even with
obvious special needs, it is very hard to convince case managers to
start the IEP process (illegal or not). Next year is sure to be an
interesting challenge for the pre-k programs. I am not sure that
there will be major changes for the CPC's and Head Starts. This may
only effect State Pre-K. I have my own suspicions that many parents
who used to opt for the tuition based pre-k will now send their kids
to the 1/2 day free pre-k and then just have a nanny take the other
half. With the TB pre-k up to 200 or so a week, wouldn't you? Another
barrier to many of these families is the 1/2 day plan. While
theoretically twice the number of children are served, many parents
choose to keep their children at home or at a traditional daycare
because it is impossible for them to get their child to a school for
2.5 hours a day. Oh and we cancel class usually 3-4 times a month
(State Pre-K and Head Start) which also causes a problem for some
working families.

Oh and we used to phase our kids in 2-3 a day so the kids can adjust
to the whole "school" thing, I mean they are THREE and FOUR and for
many this is their first time ever away from their parents or in any
type of school setting, they need A LOT of individual attention the
first few days. Though this is changing too. They will now start on
the first day of school too. So Arne/Mayor can work on those first
day attendance numbers that are so pitiful.

Filed under: Campaigns & Clout


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  • As with any new program, there will be teething issues. Hopefully the powers that be will learn from what happens this year so we can refine the process for next year.

    I also doubt that the wealthier folk are going to opt for state pre-K (and lie on the forms!). What might happen is a bump in lower middle and a few middle class children taking advantage of the program. As long as the bulk of those served are lower income and at risk I don't see a reason to panic.

  • As a parent to be, this is an intriguing debate. Right now we're examining day care options. At the moment, I would like my child to start pre-school in her elementary school. However, if it is only a half day program, that will be difficult for us to manage.

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